Trendsetters: Five Foods and Drinks That Had (Mostly) a Good Year
Industry watchers in 2009 predicted the wheat-like grain associated with King Tut would ride a celiac wave to greatness this year, sharing American pantries with papadum and coconut-milk pancake mix. The big news? It didn't happen.
But there were a number of foods, new and not-so-new, that strode into the American consciousness this year. After the jump, a list of five foods that you may very well have tried for the first time in 2010.
1. Korean barbecue tacos
We don't care where it comes from. Anything called a taco is good.
The kalbi-on-corn tortillas craze started back in 2008, when Roy Choi began wheeling his converted catering truck through the streets of Southern California. Choi now has five Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go trucks, a "best new chef" award from Food and Wine and a nation's worth of imitators: Korean barbecue taco shops have opened in Oklahoma City, Chicago, Brookyn and Plano. "Our hybrid tacos meld Korean tastes and tradition with Texas' rich Hispanic culture at a recession-proof price," boasts Chi'lantro, the Austin-based food truck that drove up to Dallas for a festival at One Arts Plaza earlier this year.
2. Nanaimo bars
Perfect for getting the taste of moose out of your mouth.
The 2006 Winter Olympics, held in Italy, seemed to offer endless possibilities for edible tie-ins: Even the biathlon seems scintillating when paired with a plate of pasta and bottle of Barolo. But what were hungry viewers supposed to do with Vancouver? The prospect of a moose steak party probably persuaded a number of sports fans to make Olympic viewing a private affair. But those naysayers missed out on discovering the great pleasures of Canadian whiskey and Nanaimo bars, the chocolate-and-pudding treat that National Post readers named "Canada's favourite confection."
3. Caffeine-infused alcohol
Remember kids, it's alcohol at night, caffeine in the daylight.
Four Loko, which earned the appealing nickname "blackout in a can," got all the attention this year, but it wasn't the only caffeinated alcoholic drink on the shelves when the FDA called the combination unsafe. Inspired by the Red Bull and vodka mixes that reign at college parties, a number of companies this year tapped into the drunk-but-alert market. The perfect beverage for the recession, drinks such as Core High Gravity and Max allowed drinkers to drown their sorrows while staying with-it enough to fill out job applications -- until they landed in the hospital.
4. Coconut water
We don't know who drinks this stuff, but we bet they own some Birkenstocks.
In 2004, a coconut water industry didn't exist in the U.S. Last year, Merrill Lynch put its worth at $35 million and growing. Coconut water -- the clear, nutty liquid that jostles around inside a coconut -- has gone from desert island survival tool to health fad, thanks to vague claims that the beverage licks hangovers, reduces hypertension and cures cancer. While researchers are understandably skeptical, most see no harm in drinking the stuff. "If you like the taste, great," UC Davis' director of sports nutrition told Mother Jones.
5. Gluten-free pasta
What's scarier than gluten? Well, this kid's mother, for one.
What's scarier than gluten? For the apparently gazillions of Americans who believe the wheat protein causes weight gain, chronic pain and maybe even autism, nothing. That's why leading chain restaurants this year revamped their menus with gluten-free choices; even diners who are certain they don't struggle with celiac disease were likely subjected to beers, pizzas and cereals purged of the unpopular protein. Sales of gluten-free products -- up 74 percent over the previous five years -- were projected to climb another 25 percent in 2010.